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Foster carers Cath and Brian surprised by Mayor with gifts to mark 30 years touching lives

Latest news

Wednesday, 22 May 2024
Middlesbrough Mayor Chris Cooke presenting Brian and Cath with their presents

Photographs of happy memories and smiling children fill Cath and Brian’s front room.

Looking back at the three decades they have fostered in Middlesbrough, the couple smile and reminisce about the children they’ve looked after over the years, the lives they’ve changed.

“We like a busy house,” jokes Brian. “Every child you help look after has their own story and it’s just nice to know you have helped them in some way.”

Cath and Brian were speaking at their home after being surprised with gifts to mark 30 years with Middlesbrough's fostering service by Mayor Chris Cooke, who himself spent time in the care system as a child.

The couple have helped more than 60 children over the years, of all ages and backgrounds, but their caring adventure didn’t get off to the best start.

They took the first sibling group staying with them on holiday to Blackpool but a series of mishaps – which included a friend’s car bursting into flames as they travelled along the A66 to meet them – made it a real “holiday from hell”, smiled Cath.

“The siblings who were with us just had an amazing week and we all really enjoyed ourselves,” she continued.

“It just seemed natural and from then on we’ve loved the experience.”

The couple had a son, Johnathan, when they began to foster, and 21 years ago, siblings Georgia and Becky came to stay.

They both still live at the family home with Becky now a mum herself while Georgia is set to train as a social worker, inspired by Cath and Brian’s fostering journey.

The couple now look after babies aged two and below, often for short stints.

One baby – whose framed photograph sits pride of place on the mantlepiece – was born 10 weeks premature. He developed meningitis and Cath spent three and a half weeks at Newcastle's RVI hospital by his bedside.

He is now one of the many who visits the couple on birthdays, at Christmas and on special occasions.

Their phones are never quiet for long, with messages and pictures arriving from those who are now raising their own families.

“We’ve always just tried to give the children who come and stay with us the best start and we show them all the same love,” continued Cath.

“It can be hard when they have to leave – whether it’s into longer term care or, where possible, back to their own family.

“Our family has gained so much through fostering – I think it helped Johnathan, it gave him siblings, and I think it taught us all that not everyone is as lucky as we are.”

During Foster Care Fortnight, which runs until May 26, those who are interested in fostering are being encouraged to visit https://www.fosterwithnortheast.org.uk/ to start their own journey.

“To anyone who has ever thought of fostering I would say it’s challenging, but the rewards you get from it are massive,” continued Cath.

“We are privileged to be able to play a small part in making sure children have a good life. That’s been a wonderful experience for us.”

Mayor Chris Cooke said: “It is important to recognise the incredible work done by so many foster carers across Middlesbrough.

“It was a pleasure to meet Cath and Brian and present them with a small token of appreciation for their dedication to young people in our town.

“They’ve touched so many lives and have made a massive difference to children growing up in difficult situations. I’d encourage anyone considering fostering to get more information and give it a try.

Cath and Brian at their home